Usually kids are the ones complaining about homework, but this time a Knox County parent said he’s so outraged by an assignment, he won’t let his son complete it. Viewer Derick Mynatt posted a photo to the WVLT Local 8 Facebook page of homework related to the Quran and the Islamic faith that his 7th grader brought home from Knox County. He writes, “…my son will not be doing this assignment or any other assignment related to Islam.” Lauren Hopson is a Knox County School teacher on leave. She said it’s an important part of the curriculum that her son even studied. “I thought it was great that he was learning about different cultures. That part of the curriculum deals with ancient cultures and as a part of studying that, they learn about the different religions. It’s not just one religion, it’s a lot of them,” Hopson said. Mynatt’s post generated hundreds of comments like “ALL of the parents need to go to the school and DEMAND answers and demand this be stopped!!!!” One person simply writes, “They should not be teaching this to our children.” And another writes, “If Jesus and God are NOT allowed in school, then Allah needs to go too!!!”
But Melissa Ogden, a spokesperson for Knox County schools says that’s where some parents might be misinformed. Islam isn’t the only religion taught in Tennessee schools. In a statement she said, “Christianity is heavily embedded in the 6th grade standards, and the continuation of history calls for the teaching of all major world religions.” That’s a curriculum Hopson has faith in. “They’re not being taught how to worship or whether one religion is better or worse than the other. They’re just getting a diverse perspective,” she said. Many people also commented on Facebook, commending Knox County Schools for teaching a diverse and culture-rich curriculum. Mynatt was unavailable to talk on camera before the time this story originally aired, but he said he will sit down with the school district Thursday and voice his concerns. The head of the University of Tennessee’s religious studies department shared some perspective on this story. Rosalind I.J. Hackett said it’s important to understand all religions because they often factor into national and international affairs, whether it be the environment, the economy, or nuclear weapons and war. “Here in East Tennessee, economic and political developments may be influenced by China, by Russia, by the Middle East,” Hackett said. Hackett said this is an interconnected world and people are isolating themselves if they don’t study religions.